The down side of living in Budapest is that the Hungarian language is considered the second most difficult language in the world. I do not have an ear for languages, which makes my situation even worse. Suffice it to say that I speak “Shopping Hungarian,” which means I can get by fairly well in the grocery store, and I’m good at sign language (I’m also good at picking out those who speak English to assist me). And yes, in Hungarian, hello means goodbye.
That said, from here on out, everything about the wonderful city of Budapest is up, up, up. I’ve lived here by choice for nearly six years, and I have yet to get my fill of all the things to do and see here. First of all, I’m crazy about the many thermal baths in town. The one you see in the photo here, Szechenyi Baths, is located in City Park about two blocks from where I live. Walking through the doors is like entering a palace. There are baths inside and out, and the architecture alone is more than worth the visit.
The fine architecture of the city never fails to astound me. I belong to a large group of expat women, and we all continually marvel at the stunning architecture that was mostly constructed in the 1800’s when Hungary was in its prime. The coffee houses where we meet are great examples of this dazzling display of design. We all speak English, so our gatherings are warm and filled with the sounds of good conversation. Often, our chats turn to the beauty of the city. No wonder so many films are made here—you can find so many different kinds of building designs and odd little streets that make perfect street scenes for other countries.
The transportation system in Budapest is one of the best in the world, offering easy access to not only all parts of the city, but the frequent trains take us to wonderful locations like the twenty-two wine districts throughout Hungary or nearby Lake Balaton, the longest lake in Europe. I can go for my morning walk and instead of turning left two blocks and wander around in City Park with its lake, thermal baths, castle and restaurants, I can choose to take a right and walk fifty meters to a trolley that will connect me to transportation all over the city. Yesterday, I took the trolley and then a tram to a restaurant along the Danube. I enjoyed a leisurely lunch with a friend while overlooking the river on a beautiful spring day. In fifteen minutes I returned home writing my next chapter.
Hungarians love, love, love their dogs, and they lovingly take them everywhere. There are more dogs per capita in Budapest than in any other country in the world, yet I have never seen a stray. I happen to have a favorite Hungarian breed—the Puli. They make me laugh when I see them running in the park because they really do look like someone is waving a mop about.
Outdoor restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and pastry shops abound. If you have a sweet tooth and want to lose weight, this may not be the city for you. Meeting for coffee in one of these lovely places is part of life here. During summers we seek the outdoor cafes; winters, we haunt the more elaborate or cozy places. There’s even a Russian Tea House I like to frequent in the winter.
And then there is the intriguing history of Hungary itself, from the Turkish invasion of centuries ago to WWII, followed by the communist era. The story of Hungary and her people is complex and fascinating, such as the tale of their beloved Empress “Sisi.”
Empress “Sisi” Elizabeth and her husband Emperor Franz Joseph ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 1800’s. The twenty-four-year-old emperor was supposed to marry her sister, but when Sisi, then fifteen-years-old, accompanied her sister and mother to court to meet the emperor, Franz Joseph took one look at beautiful, vivacious, and carefree Sisi, and announced that if he couldn’t have Sisi for a wife, he would never marry. Unfortunately, his incredibly controlling and formidable mother drove a wedge between the two, tearing Sisi’s heart out when the mother-in-law took Sisi’s children away to be raised in the royal manner and, single-handedly knocking the zest for life out of Sisi.
Sisi had a summer palace constructed thirty miles outside of Budapest and came to adore the Hungarian people, the land, and the freedom from her mother-in-law’s control. In time, she fell in love with handsome Count Andrassy, then prime minister of Hungary. Some say her youngest child belonged to him. In any case, be very careful to never say anything negative about Empress Elizabeth to a Hungarian. She is revered here. The statues all over the city are proof of their love for her.
If you visit Europe, you would be doing yourself a wonderful favor by touring fabulous Budapest. You won’t be disappointed.
About the Author
Kathleen Bittner Roth creates passionate stories featuring characters faced with difficult choices, and who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love.
Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. However, she still keeps one boot firmly in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota.
A member of Romance Writers of America, she was a 2012 Golden Heart finalist.
About the Book
Lady Georgiana Cressington is living a nightmare. Coerced by her father into returning to her childhood home, the young window becomes a pawn in another of his heartless games. Her return to Summerfield Hall reunites her with the man she once loved before their hearts were shattered by a devastating betrayal.
Sir Robert Garreck, an artist knighted by the queen, lives in a mansion near the family estate Georgiana’s father won in a crooked card game. Rob sets out to regain Summerfield Hall to keep Georgiana’s son from inheriting Rob’s rightful home. However, when he and Georgiana are thrown together, he craves the forbidden lady he never stopped loving. Facing danger and a long-hidden truth, Georgiana and Rob try to claim the powerful love they once had.
By the time Rob reached the stables, sweat rolled off him like a hot summer rain. Mumbling another litany of curses, he relieved himself of boots and clothing and dove into the deep pool carved out of the riverbank. The icy water felt torturously rejuvenating. There he remained, floating on his back and watching the color of the sky deepen. One by one, the stars gave a twinkle and then burst to life, diamonds on black velvet. He didn’t want to think. Christ, he didn’t want to think of her.
Swathed in darkness now, with a chill that had set his bones to aching and his teeth to chattering, he exited the water. A shake of his head sent his hair flying about his shoulders like a wet dog. Using his shirt for a towel, he headed for the house—and to his best brandy.
Dressed in clean clothing and bare of foot, Rob warmed his toes before a blazing fire in the cavernous living space.
Ever so slowly, he sipped his drink while he stared at the unfinished portrait he’d begun some years ago. Only half of the woman’s hauntingly beautiful face had been completed.
Most of it remained a vague sketch. He’d dry-brushed a subtle haze over the entire canvas, giving it a mysterious appearance that mirrored the foggy image in his mind.
For the life of him, he couldn’t conjure up what Georgiana’s features might be like since sixteen years had passed. Had he captured anything of how she might appear as a woman? After all these years was his forbidden lady even real or only an illusion? He no longer knew.
And he didn’t want to know.